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Ziel: The Birth of RF Microbial Treatment in Cannabis

How they created a consistent, repeatable and predictable way to treat microbial pathogens with radio frequency — but not without setting a few samples on fire first.

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This week, Arthur De Cordova, president and CEO of Ziel, and Ketch DeGabrielle, former director of operations at Los Sueños Farms, join the Cannabis Equipment News podcast to discuss how they created a consistent, repeatable and predictable way to treat microbial pathogens with radio frequency — but not without setting a few samples on fire first. 

In 2014, industrial designer Ketch DeGabrielle was approached by a good friend who had opened a Colorado dispensary. The business had grown, and the friend was looking to start his own outdoor cultivation operation. He asked DeGabrielle to come aboard and help on the tech side of the business. Over time, the operation — Los Sueños Farms — grew to be the largest cannabis farm in North America. 

However, DeGabrielle couldn't find any machinery that could handle the company's scale. At best, he found some equipment that could be piecemealed together. So, he started inventing his own equipment and developing the process that soon became a well-oiled machine. 

Meanwhile, Arthur De Cordova had become the president and CEO of Ziel, formerly RF Bocidics. De Cordova spent the 1980s working on Wall Street, the 1990s working as AstaZeneca's country manager in Russia, and the 2000s back in the U.S., working in the solar industry. 

He was retired when called by a former colleague who was the CTO at RF Bocidics. The company was in startup mode and looking for a new CEO that could help steer the ship. It was using radio frequency to pasteurize food, and although it made a lot of mistakes as a startup, it had some accidental success, as well. 

One day, DeGabrielle approached RF at an agricultural industry trade show. In 2015, the state of Colorado had informed operators that it was going to start microbial testing, and DeGabrielle started looking for a solution that could help Los Sueños be compliant. The industry was scrambling for solutions. 

RF had a solution for the food industry (it was primarily used for nuts), but they didn't know if it would work for cannabis, so DeGabrielle rented some cannabis from a friend, took it to the lab and ran some tests. While he set the first batch on fire, he soon found out that it would be an ideal solution for a cannabis kill step. 

RF Biocidics, which De Cordova bought and renamed Ziel, had to retrofit the company's nut tech to suit cannabis. It took four years, but now they have the RFX, a consistent, repeatable and predictable machine that treats microbial pathogens with radio frequency. The RFX can process five pounds of dried trim flower in a 15-minute cycle time product. Some clients are processing 450 pounds of flower in just 24 hours.

Jump around:

  • Difficulties finding (and inventing) cannabis equipment in 2015. (1:33)
  • Turning a backpack full of cannabis into the birth of RF microbial treatment. (6:44)
  • Creating a prototype for the cannabis industry. (10:13)
  • Why RF was the only kill step Los  Sueños used at scale. (15:45)
  • A deep dive into Ziel's RFX machines. (16:56)
  • Why cannabis is an engineer's dream. (32:20)

Please make sure to like, subscribe and share the podcast. You could also help us out by giving the podcast a positive review. Finally, to email the podcast or suggest a potential guest, you can reach David Mantey at [email protected].

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